Excerpt from Chapter Three
Utah Territory ~ 1870
The whispering hush of the river grew louder, echoing off the high canyon walls and sending a wave of relief throughout Jed's body. He needed some distance from the woman sitting ridged in front of him. Running Bear’s tribe occupied these valleys near the streams during the spring. With any luck, he’d be able to locate their camp and replenish his supplies.
Just as the river came into view, Rachell pulled his rifle from the scabbard at the side of his saddle. She slid from his lap in a flutter of green fabric, all before he reined his horse to a stop.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?” he called after her.
She ignored him, taking brisk strides. She cocked the rifle with familiar ease, never slowing her stride as she took her aim at a duck flying overhead, and fired.
Damn if the bird didn't fall from the sky.
"Where the hell did you learn to do that?” he shouted in sheer astonishment, but he was talking to the wind. Rachell had disappeared over the hillside into a small meadow. A moment later, another gunshot carried across the narrow valley. Jed dismounted and went to retrieve the duck she had marched past. He walked back toward Sage, thinking he was probably safer being out of rifle range. By the cold look he'd seen in her green eyes lately, she'd been picturing his mug flying around up in that sky.
"Damn," he sighed, leading Sage toward the river. Perhaps he'd been too hard on the little woman. Maybe she needed to be coddled a bit more.
Another gunshot echoed in the distance.
"Nah.” He shook his head. For all her softness and beauty, Rachell was twice as strong and ten times as stubborn. When life handed her lemons, she wasn't the sort to sit around and fuss about it. She rolled up her sleeves and made lemonade. Course, with her knack for cooking, it wouldn't taste worth a shit, but like the five batches of stones she'd baked, Rachell didn't let her lack of know-how keep her from trying.
Jed grinned as he pulled out his knife and crouched beside the river. The woman wasn't short on spunk. He imagined Miss Abigail had had more than a handful with the young imp. And for all of Miss Abigail's effort, Rachell's lady polish was beginning to wear off.
As Jed finished cleaning the duck, Rachell returned from her hunt. She walked toward him with the rifle clamped in one hand and the ears of two large rabbits in the other. Jed strode toward her, reaching for the rabbits. "Rachell, I can--"
"I'm not helpless," she spat, jerking her hand beyond his grasp. "I may not be able to cook it, but I can clean my own kill.” She walked past him, never taking her eyes off the river as she continued toward the edge.
Jed saw the moment her fear of the fast moving current caught up with her anger. She came to a dead stop a foot from the edge. There were no shallow pools in this stretch of river, only a hard, cold current moving across slick rocks. A tremor shook her body as she stared out at the water. Jed moved behind her and carefully pulled the rifle from her hand. He took the rabbits from the other.
"You know," he said softly, leaning toward her ear. "If you'd have mentioned your skill with a long gun sooner, I could have been catching up on my beauty sleep while you worked off some of the aggression you've kept bottled up for the past twelve years.”
She glanced over her shoulder, a smile playing on her lips, reminding him how much he'd missed the upward curve of those pretty pink lips.
“I told you I was decent shot.”
She was better than decent. He purely did not need to start liking this woman.
* * *
From the book BRIDE OF SHADOW CANYON by Stacey Kayne
Imprint and Series: Harlequin Historical, ISBN: 0373294442
Copyright ©2006 by Stacey Kayne
® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher. The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
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